A soap opera that never ends will finally end. Then what?
By Dr. Robert Owens
All my life I’ve been in love with History. I learned at an early age that if you love reading you can live a thousand lifetimes and if you’re wise you have the opportunity to learn from the mistakes of others. I’ve certainly experienced the former while unfortunately not doing much of the latter.
My love of History metastasized into a love of Political Science. These two intellectual “Loves of my Life” have given me countless hours of joy lost in reading, mired in thinking, and entertained by speculation.
Now as I enter what are called the golden years, though I believe they might be made of brass, having spent several decades teaching both subjects I feel a need to share some insights not on particulars but instead on something that is usually disparaged and often dismissed, generalities.
Though most have never heard of him many can misquote the writer and philosopher George Santayana who is reported to have said, “Those who do not learn history are doomed to repeat it.” What he actually said was, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” There is a subtle difference there for learning and remembering are two different things. This sounds so wise. It even appears self-evident. And it apparently, at least to my observation, it’s an oxymoron. After a daily study of History for sixty years the only lesson I’ve learned is that humanity never learns the lessons of History.
In my classes I tell my students that History is nothing more than the stories of people just like us who lived at different times in what were essentially different worlds. They had the same bodies and minds that we do. They felt the same emotions. They lived, they died, and now it is our turn. I also tell them that if we don’t learn anything from History that helps us in our everyday life we might as well pick up a good fiction book and at least enjoy some good writing.
I know that most people study History because they have to. I know most people find it boring. As an exercise in memorizing dates, names, and facts to be later regurgitated on a test and forgotten I can well understand the boring part. There are so few who can see through the process to the stories that make History so exciting. Few can lose themselves in the narrative, imagine themselves on the deck of that ship, in the palace with the king, or in the hut with that peasant. They only see dates, and names, and facts. BORING!
And Political Science who cares about that? I tell my students who don’t care about it at all that it’s the science of who gets what and if they don’t care about it someone else will and then they get to make the decisions. What do you want? You decide.
Now after decades spent following politics through the lens of History attempting to share with others the insights gained, I must tell you all that it’s essentially the equivalent of an ant studying a castle made of sand. He spends his life telling other ants how wondrous the castle is, how imposing its turrets are, how deep its moat, and how formidable its defenses then the waves come in the castle is gone and the ants have disappeared.
I recently taught a class on American History from 1877 until the present to a class full of millennials. We used a textbook that was more than a thousand pages long. It wasn’t until the last few pages that we reached anything the students could remember as having happened since they became aware of the world around them. That last twenty minutes of the semester really had an impact.
To most people History begins the day they’re born. For all of us it ends the day we die. And Political Science ends up being the science of rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic.
In the 4.5 billion years of this planet’s existence, in the fifteen billion years since the Big Bang the history of humanity doesn’t even take up the last few paragraphs. It would fill perhaps part of a sentence, a few words such as……………. All things will pass only those things done in Christ will last.
That’s it, the sum total of all I’ve learned, all I’ve discovered, and all I’ll ever know. No Christ no peace. Know Christ know peace. For those who seek to gain their life will lose it and those who lose their life for Christ will find it. He is the truth, the light, and the life and without Him there is no truth, or light, or life.
Stop fighting a war that’s already been won. Stop spinning your wheels running in a race that goes in a circle. Step out of the darkness and into the light and let this be the first day of the rest of your life.
The stories of those who have gone before teach us nothing if they don’t lead us to Christ. The politics of this world are an endless loop, a tempest in a teacup, a soap opera that never ends. It may be engaging to watch like a slow-motion train wreck. It may be exciting, exhilarating, even entertaining but for most of us in a hundred years no one will even know we were here. In a thousand years no one will remember the compelling arguments of today, the all-important bitter debates about whether we place the deck chair here or there. Yet in an eternity from now heaven will know whether or not we acknowledged Christ as our Savior, for if we confess with our lips that Jesus is Lord and believe in our hearts that God raised Him from the dead we shall be saved.